Damaging in-fighting hits Bullet Train for Australia parties ahead of ACT election
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Damaging in-fighting hits Bullet Train for Australia parties ahead of ACT election

Damaging in-fighting has broken out within a minor party days before the ACT's election, after a small group of breakaway members raised concerns about the organisation's finances.

The Bullet Train for Australia party - related unofficially to Like Canberra, which has candidates running in the ACT election - has a membership of roughly 500, and is heavily reliant on volunteers and small donations to survive, including from its own members, candidates, or the executive.

Members of the Bullet Train for Canberra Party before the ACT election in 2012. From left, Tim Bohm, Chris Bucknell, and Mark Erwood

Members of the Bullet Train for Canberra Party before the ACT election in 2012. From left, Tim Bohm, Chris Bucknell, and Mark Erwood Credit:Rohan Thomson

A group of Bullet Train members recently became concerned about the state of the party's books, and formed an audit committee, chaired by a former Melbourne candidate Josh Davidson.

The committee alleges between $12,000 and $13,000 in party money is unaccounted for.

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The party executive, headed by Tim Bohm, who is also the head of the Like Canberra party, has dismissed the allegations as those of disgruntled members, who he says are deliberately trying to hurt Like Canberra's chances in the ACT election.

Mr Bohm sent the audit committee a list of expenditures to explain how the money had been used for proper campaign purposes.

He said full and proper disclosure of the party's finances would be made to the Australian Electoral Commission later this month, as required by law.

"As the saying goes 'you can't please everyone' and this is definitely one of those cases," he said.

"We can assure all members that the party is operating in full transparency and accountability as prescribed by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918."

But the audit committee said it had asked for supporting documentation to back up Mr Bohm's claims, including invoices and bank statements.

Audit committee member Mark Erwood said no such evidence had been provided by Wednesday morning.

Mr Erwood and other concerned members went public on Wednesday, calling for a halt to the operations of the Bullet Train for Australia party, until they can work out where the money has gone. They are not calling for a halt to operations of the Like Canberra party.

He described the public strategy as a "last resort", and something that had not been done lightly.

"We've got to hit the brakes," he said.

"No one wants to see the party come apart, but you can't run an organisation like this, which is based on volunteers and small donations, you can't run that without complete transparency and trust.

"We need these principles to be upheld, otherwise the party is going to be in real trouble."

Bullet Train for Australia and Like Canberra are not formally connected, but share a similar membership, leadership, and policy priority - establishing high speed rail.

Mr Bohm wrote to members twice about the matter, and gave a list of campaign expenses, including on advertising, signs and posters, and other materials and fees.

He wrote that he saw "no need to itemise nor disclose tax invoices, supplier contact details or bank statements".

A second email, sent on Tuesday night, said that further questions about the financial status of the party could be raised at its annual general meeting.

"Notwithstanding, all donations and receipt of electoral funding for the recent federal election were applied solely towards the promotion of the objects and objectives of the party as set forth in our constitution," Mr Bohm wrote.

The audit committee is also concerned about the links between the Bullet Train party and Like Canberra, which they say has not been endorsed by members.

They allege that the Bullet Train party's social media has been used to promote Like Canberra, but members have not been consulted or given any explanation of the arrangement.

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Committee member Eric Malcolm expressed fears that the Bullet Train party was being exploited by Like Canberra, despite the lack of any formal affiliation.

"Members have not been consulted about the endorsement of this party, and do not understand how the two organisations intersect," he said.